Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's in a Name?

Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A

A person’s name is a powerful thing. Our parents gave us names hoping that we will grow up having that quality or virtue. For example, the name given to me by my parents is “Jin Hua” which means “magnificent, splendid, bright and beautiful.” Thank God for my parents for not having given me the name “fatty” or “Ah Ju” (Piggy) or “Ah Kow” (Little Doggy) or something like that.

The Jewish people were also very particular about choosing the name of their children. Every name had its own special meaning. Many of the great men in the bible had their names chosen for them by God – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, John the Baptist and even Jesus. The choosing of a name is a sign of great blessing. It is the fundamental duty of the father to choose the name of his child. He can confer on the child great blessing or a curse by the name chosen.

In today’s gospel, we see how the angel of the Lord commands Joseph to choose a name for his Son. The name chosen is “Jesus”. What does this name mean in Hebrew? Jesus means “God saves.” The angel gives the reason for the choice of the name- “because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.” Jesus is our Saviour. He is the one who will bring reconciliation between God and man. He is the one who will save us from our sinfulness and lead us into the Promised Land of eternal Life. He is the one who has come to overcome the darkness of sin and death. He truly lives up to his name.

The angel also gives another name or title to Jesus. He will also be called “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.” This is an ancient title that had been part of the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Emmanuel was the title given to the Son or ancestor of King David, the one who will establish the Kingdom of God for all eternity. For each of us, this is also a powerful name. God is not only far above in the heavens and hidden by the clouds of mystery. God has come close to us. He has become one of us. Because of his love, God chose to become man to share his weaknesses and strengths, his joys and sorrows, his pain and sufferings so that man may share in the holy life of God. Unlike any other religion, in Christianity, we believe that it is God who takes the initiative to come close to us and not we trying to perfect ourselves to come close to him.

May each of us strive to live up to the virtue that is indicated by our names. Our names are a blessing and also a challenge. As we prepare ourselves the celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Immanuel at Christmas, let us proclaim to all our friends and loved ones and the whole world, the good news about the Son of God. He is Jesus. He is Immanuel. He is the one who has come to save us. He is God who has come to live with us.

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